Budget issues force Dunsmuir to reduce police coverage

Sarah Kirby
Dunsmuir mayor Julianna Lucchesi, city councilor Dave Keisler, vice mayor Matthew Bryan, and councilor Bruce Deutsch discussed a reduction in law enforcement coverage due to increased costs and budget restrictions during their meeting last week.

Law enforcement coverage in Dunsmuir will be cut back from 20 hours a day to 14.5 hours due to an increase in cost and a deficit in the city’s general fund.

Residents will still have 24/7 access to dispatch, 911 services, and law enforcement services if an emergency were to arise.

A memorandum of understanding with the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, which provides law enforcement services to Dunsmuir on a contractual basis, was approved unanimously on a roll call vote during Thursday’s Dunsmuir City Council meeting.

Council member Matthew Bryan participated in contract negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office.

“On a financial note, (law enforcement) was almost double the hourly rate and the county has non flexibility with this, according to them,” Bryan said.

Bryan noted that this memorandum includes lots of opportunity for the city to have input. He added that the council intends to communicate at regular intervals with the Sheriff's Office, possibly “meeting quarterly to discuss the law enforcement needs of Dunsmuir.”

During public comment, one resident addressed the council with a series of statistics comparing crimes committed in Mount Shasta and in Dunsmuir.

His statistics showed that Mount Shasta has less crime than Dunsmuir, but that Mount Shasta invests more funds into police coverage. The gentleman added that he was unhappy with the reduction in enforcement hours and felt it would not work well.

Council member Peter Arth said he was worried when they cut back law enforcement coverage when he served as mayor and vice mayor from 2008 to 2010, also due to budget restrictions.

Bryan said the city would be working closely with the Sheriff’s Office during this transition. It was noted that the city currently is $88,000 deficient in general funds, and the increase in hourly cost for enforcement coverage made this drop in patrol hours one of the only options.

Bryan added that in three years, if hourly wages for law enforcement continue to rise, residents will be faced with this same predicament, which could mean cutting back on even more law enforcement coverage. He said the city has “three years to foster prosperity.”

An ad hoc committee will continue the monitoring of the memorandum of understanding.

Mott Airport

The council unanimously approved a three-year agreement to allow the US Forest Service to use the airport during fire season.

According to the agreement, while the one helicopter is at the airport the city will receive daily payment. For each additional helicopter the Forest Service parks at the airport, the city will receive a larger daily sum, and if the airport must be closed for Forest Service’s exclusive use, then the city will receive $750 dollars a day.

If the city offered more services such as access to water and fuel, then the city could receive more money per day.

Council member Bruce Deutsch suggested that the city could add a pilots’ lounge or a basketball hoop to the airport.

“This is a good beginning as we are moving into climate change and threat from wildfires increases. This does not just benefit the community of Dunsmuir but all of South Siskiyou County,” said Arth.

“We are getting money so it’s a good start,” said Keisler, and he moved to approve the agreement, which passed unanimously.